Research projects

A self-management therapy treatment package for people with bipolar-affective disorder

Principal Researchers

Prof. David Castle, Prof. Michael Berk, Monica Gilbert, Lesley Berk, Neil Cole


Collaborative Therapy Unit

Mental Health Research Institute



Award Type

beyondblue Victorian Centre of Excellence

Project completion year


Project brief

This project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a Collaborative Therapy self-management package for people with bipolar disorder.  The project is conducted in three phases: 

  • Phase one - needs analysis and development of intervention; 
  • Phase two – randomised control trial;
  • Phase three – follow-up and data analysis

This report describes the outcomes of phase one of the project which involved:

  • A literature review to establish what psychosocial interventions have been proven to be effective for people with bipolar disorder.
  • A series of Focus Group used to identify barriers to participation for consumers and problems associated with service system communication.
  • The development of a draft version of the self-management package which will be piloted to refine any issues with implementation of phase two of the project. 

Key Findings/Outcomes

A comprehensive literature review has been completed to establish what psycho-social interventions have been shown to be most effective.  This material has been utilised to design the intervention manual.

A number of focus groups were held with consumers (3), carers (2), and service providers (5) to explore issues associated with bipolar disorder.  Key issues included:  education and understanding of bipolar disorder, difficulty in assessing mood and recognising/managing early warning signs, stress management, medication issues, stigma and impact of bipolar disorder on everyday functioning.  A number of systemic issues were also identified such as the importance of obtaining a correct diagnosis, establishing a good relationship with one’s doctor and lack of continuity of care especially psycho-social rehabilitation.

The self-management package was developed incorporating a group-based intervention, information book, personal workbook and collaborative treatment journal.  This program was piloted with 6 outpatients who endorsed the group program as a helpful way of learning about their illness in a supportive environment.

Implications for policy and practice

Phase one of the project has identified the needs and gaps in treatment of people with bipolar disorder from a range of perspectives. 

  • Highlighted the need for access to psychosocial programs to complement pharmacological interventions. 
  • Greater G.P. training
  • Potential case management model

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